In the first generation, portable laptops were mostly a marketing stunt run by established computer manufacturers as a way of passing off low-end components at a high-end price to a subset of the market that was more concerned with aesthetics than performance. The only selling point of these laptops was that they were slim and portable, with a shiny finish to make them seem premium. Yet beneath the surface, they were nothing more than glorified web browsers, utterly incapable of handling any resource-intensive tasks.
The second generation saw the focus shift towards multimedia consumption, with the addition of higher quality displays and better audio. Unfortunately, these models also sacrificed connectivity and upgradeability for slimmer designs by removing most ports and soldering key components right to the board. These changes further reduce the utility of the device, even as the build quality and designs improved dramatically. This also resulted in a further increase in the starting prices, which inversely impacted the value proposition of buying a portable laptop in the first place.
It was only in the third generation that we finally started to see the segment start to include proper performance as a measuring metric for new laptops. As processors and discrete graphics cards have become more competent at handling high-performance tasks, portable laptops have also started to make their transition from secondary lifestyle devices to proper workstations.
The continued optimization of operating systems made sure that you can get a lot more sustained performance out of a device before limitations of power and thermal management make themselves known. At the same time, the market has reached a scale where there are enough products to pick from that we can even differentiate between portable laptops retailing at different price ranges. Yet, even with hundreds of models, from dozens of manufacturers on sale, the choice still comes down to a handful of options that make up the top tier of the portable laptop space, and for us, the Huawei Matebook 14s is easily the best of them all.
What makes this device so special is a unique combination of hardware and software optimization that is hard to get at this price point. It all starts with the body of the laptop, which features a simple and understated design that belies the premium quality materials used in a precisely engineered manner.
The body itself is made up of a special aluminium alloy that is quite sturdy while also being pretty lightweight. The entire package weighs a pretty manageable 1.43 kg, which is spread out pretty evenly across the body. Of course, the portion carrying the keyboard, battery, and other components is a bit thicker, yet you can still open the lid with one hand without worrying about the base lifting off. This showcases how well the hinge has been designed to smoothen out the tilting action and reduce any flex in the display.
The full-size keyboard itself is well integrated into the body, making the chicklet keys seem quite slim, even though you still get a decent key journey that goes as high as 1.5 mm. You also get 3-level backlighting to ensure the best visibility in all lighting conditions. Other than the keyboard and trackpad, there are almost no other lines on the entire body, which only serves to highlight the minimalist approach to design. As well all know, minimalism has sort of become the new standard of portable design philosophy, with manufacturers striving to achieve the highest tolerances of quality control and component integration.
We are happy to say that the same approach can be seen in the evenness of the display bezels as well, which are easily on par, if not better than anything else on the market today. This makes the display stand out even more, which is already a pretty eye-catching 2.5K 14.2 inches panel. The company calls it their FullView Display, and it has an amazing 90% screen-to-body ratio in a 3.2 aspect ratio. It is an LTPS panel which supports a 10-Point Precision Touchscreen experience. All the gestures and movements are extremely snappy, thanks to a 90Hz refresh rate. All of this makes for a great viewing experience, which is protected by TÜV Rheinland Low Blue Light & Flicker Free Certifications. We are happy the company didn’t cut any corners in this aspect, as it is a vital part of the multimedia device image that is associated with portable laptops.
The same is further enhanced with the inclusion of a special Quad Audio System, which is powered by Huawei Sound. This is a special algorithm which produces a surround-sound experience like no other through the 4 built-in speakers that have a resonant treble and punchy, powerful bass. This focus on AI-based sound optimization is also present in the audio pickup department, which features a Quad Mic system that is enhanced through active noise cancellation for full 360°-degree audio immersion.
Even if this were the extent of the laptop’s capabilities, it would still have easily been one of the best options in the market today. Yet this particular portable goes the extra step by adding raw power to the mix, with the inclusion of an 11th generation Intel Core i7-11370H H-Series processor and Intel Iris Xe Graphics. This, paired with 16 GB LPDDR4x Dual Channel RAM and 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD, makes this laptop a bonafide powerhouse, which can handle all sorts of tasks you can throw at it.
All of this is included to sustain a truly exceptional software ecosystem, which plays an integral part in making this laptop what it is today. Where other companies are focusing on developing their enclosed software ecosystems, Huawei is instead adopting a more welcoming standard, with the use of Windows 10 as a base for their platform. A platform which features a unique feature called Huawei Share that enables total integration between all your devices, including but not limited to your Huawei tablet, phone, and even TV.
Even if you don’t connect your phone or tablet to your laptop, you can still enjoy all the smartphone apps on it, thanks to the addition of the mobile app store straight into the regular app centre. This gives us a glimpse into the future of computing, where mobile and desktop software will work together seamlessly to deliver a truly portable experience. This is the value proposition that the company is offering with this device, and we truly believe they have nailed it with the Matebook 14S.